I do not feel bad for Paula Deen. The elderly Southern chef may not be the most conventional candidate for the spotlight she’s garnered over the past twenty years, but that should not excuse her from the extreme controversy surrounding the racial remarks she’s admitted to making. Furthermore, her handling of the events following the scandal is laughable at best.
From her self-produced YouTube videos to the crying ordeal on the Today show, Deen has demonstrated what happens when celebrities try to clean up their own messes. Just as Kanye and Kim most likely outsource the less pleasant duties of caring for baby North West, Deen should’ve hired someone else to change the diaper of this scandal. Her outcries for amnesty highlight a fatal flaw of the lack of self-perception that celebrities have.
Celebrities are held to higher standards than the rest of us. This isn’t some new revelation brought upon by the era of 24/7 news and social media either, as Marilyn Monroe and countless other ill-equipped luminaries have discovered over the decades. When you stop to think about it, this isn’t really all that unfair.
Deen gets millions for recipes that many Southern grandmothers could provide for a whole lot less. I don’t begrudge Deen for that either. She is (or was) a marketable personality who could command a large salary for her services. That’s America, baby.
The problem is that Deen wasn’t constantly aware of the fact that with great stardom comes great responsibility. The words of Uncle Ben from Spider-Man aren’t calling her to don a spider onesie, but rather to not let slips of blatant racism reach the press. Just as she made a market for her services, she let that market crumble.
Deen’s efforts to ask for pity from Americans who maybe went on a similar racist diatribe while planning his or her Southern wedding is irrelevant. Most of us don’t have contracts with Wal-Mart. If a similar instance happened to me, I could at least rest easy knowing that I don’t have to cry on national television to save my show on the Food Network. Deen’s pleas are appropriate to a room full of celebrities, but we the American people are not her constituencies.
What Deen wants is to have her cake and eat it too. She can’t tell her audience to listen only when instructed to add four sticks of butter to the cheesecake and not when she’s dreaming of planning her Southern wedding in pre-Civil War Georgia. You know what I say to the notion that celebrities are held to higher standards? Good! They’re entertainers, and racism is not entertaining.
The only positive to come out of this is to show that the American public has no tolerance for this kind of nonsense. It’s sad that in the year 2013, we’re still dealing with racial problems. The companies that dropped Deen should be rewarded for showing that this is not tolerated.
I believe in redemption. Deen’s books are still selling like crazy, so there’s clearly still a market for her services. Maybe someday her time-out will be over and she can come back to the Food Network. But not today.